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This tiny demo green roof was completed for a Buffalo Show House project. Photo Buffalo Rising/Queenseyes

A story about Spokane and
Seattle illustrates the dichotomy inherent in making sustainability part of
city planning. When he was mayor of Spokane in 2001, John Powers proposed a
green roof for Spokane’s City Hall. Chicago’s City Hall had one, after all. He
was literally laughed out of the Common Council Chambers when one of the councilmen
dressed up in bib overalls and handed out gardening gloves to his fellow
legislators (hmm, wonder what make they were?).

Now Powers
lives in Seattle, where he works as an attorney and consultant, in a building
with a massive green roof, and there have since been quite a number of green roofs installed in
Spokane (but still not on City Hall).  The antics of the councilman struck a chord with me though. In
smaller municipal areas, the educational process is slower and the awareness is
often just not there.

I would have no problem with my tax dollars helping to pay
for conference travel (politicians always go to them anyway) if it helped them
learn about urban farms, city chickens, green roofs, conserving storm run-off,
rain gardens, preventing urban food deserts, and whatever else. Sure, it can be
in Las Vegas, because they won’t go unless it is.  They’ll pick something up. We can’t all be Chicago and
Seattle; something needs to be done, because good ideas aren’t percolating down
fast enough.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on August 5, 2009 at 8:23 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet.


  1. Politicians can be so short-sighted! If only they realized that adopting sustainable practices like green roofs and rain gardens would save them money and help allay serious stormwater management issues. Green roofs, in addition to slowing down the flow of water into the stormwater system, insulate the buildings, making them cooler in summer and warmer in winter, and thus giving large savings in heating and cooling costs.

  2. Ooh, I’m with you on that! Living in a small town myself, I could almost see that antic happening at our city meetings. The problem I see is that a lot of the local politicians think that we’re too different from the big cities (being small and rural) and thus don’t want the same things. It’s maddening.

  3. It would be a lot easier to have a green tin roof and plant trees into the ground. Cities need trees, not some succulents on the roof for who knows what. Give it up. Dig a big wide whole in the earth and plant a tree.

  4. Brian – thanks for that off-topic comment – that is NEWS and can;t believe I had not heard it elsewhere yet. The commenters on that page are offensive – and the one comparing gardening to streetsweeping?!? Hold me back, hold me back.

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